the impact of specialized domestic violence units on case ......the impact of specialized domestic...

of 21 /21
The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard 1 Received: 20 October 2017 / Accepted: 22 January 2018 / Published online: 6 February 2018 # Southern Criminal Justice Association 2018 Abstract This study involves an evaluation of an innovative approach to the handling of domestic violence (DV) cases in the city of Cleveland, Ohio that includes (1) a DV Project composed of specially trained police detectives, prosecutors and victim advo- cates for investigating and prosecuting domestic violence cases involving adult female victims who are married to, cohabitating with, or have a child with the defendant; and (2) a Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket that involves two Municipal Court judges hearing all of the domestic violence cases that are handled by the DV Project. We collected data on six months of domestic violence cases occurring in the latter half of 2008 (N = 1388), by linking records from the Cleveland Police Department, the Prosecutors Office, and the Municipal Court. We found that very few victims in police districts lacking the DV Project follow up with a prosecutor to pursue the case further, indicting that specialized DV units in police departments can have a significant impact on the number of DV cases that move forward through the criminal justice system. DV Project cases were slightly less likely to result in charges issued by prosecutors (OR = .499) but more likely to result in dismissals (OR = 2.545) and referrals to DV treatment programs (χ 2 = 3.88). Keywords Domesticviolence . Intimatepartnerviolence . Specializedunits . Prosecution . Courts According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 22% of female non-fatal violent victim- izations and 30% of female homicides are committed at the hands of a male intimate or Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570590 https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-018-9435-9 * Wendy C. Regoeczi [email protected] Dana J. Hubbard [email protected] 1 Department of Criminology, Anthropology, & Sociology, Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Avenue, RT 1724, Cleveland, OH 44115-2214, USA

Upload: others

Post on 08-Sep-2020

7 views

Category:

Documents


0 download

TRANSCRIPT

Page 1: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Unitson Case Processing

Wendy C. Regoeczi1 & Dana J. Hubbard1

Received: 20 October 2017 /Accepted: 22 January 2018 /Published online: 6 February 2018# Southern Criminal Justice Association 2018

Abstract This study involves an evaluation of an innovative approach to the handlingof domestic violence (DV) cases in the city of Cleveland, Ohio that includes (1) a DVProject composed of specially trained police detectives, prosecutors and victim advo-cates for investigating and prosecuting domestic violence cases involving adult femalevictims who are married to, cohabitating with, or have a child with the defendant; and(2) a Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket that involves two Municipal Court judgeshearing all of the domestic violence cases that are handled by the DV Project. Wecollected data on six months of domestic violence cases occurring in the latter half of2008 (N = 1388), by linking records from the Cleveland Police Department, theProsecutor’s Office, and the Municipal Court. We found that very few victims in policedistricts lacking the DV Project follow up with a prosecutor to pursue the case further,indicting that specialized DV units in police departments can have a significant impacton the number of DV cases that move forward through the criminal justice system. DVProject cases were slightly less likely to result in charges issued by prosecutors (OR =.499) but more likely to result in dismissals (OR = 2.545) and referrals to DV treatmentprograms (χ2 = 3.88).

Keywords Domesticviolence . Intimatepartnerviolence .Specializedunits .Prosecution. Courts

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 22% of female non-fatal violent victim-izations and 30% of female homicides are committed at the hands of a male intimate or

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-018-9435-9

* Wendy C. [email protected]

Dana J. [email protected]

1 Department of Criminology, Anthropology, & Sociology, Cleveland State University, 2121 EuclidAvenue, RT 1724, Cleveland, OH 44115-2214, USA

Page 2: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

ex intimate partner (Catalano, 2007; Lauritsen, Owens, Planty, Rand, & Truman, 2012).Given the likelihood that self-report data underestimate the true prevalence of intimatepartner violence, the actual figures may be as high as one in three womenexperiencing a physical assault from a male partner during adulthood (Blacket al., 2011; Browne, 1997). The bright spot in these otherwise dismal statisticsis that intimate partner domestic violence incidents have declined since 1994(Catalano, 2012). However, they still represent a large portion of non-fatalviolent victimization, accounting for more than 800,000 reported victimizationsannually (Truman & Morgan, 2016). Furthermore, reported acts of minorviolence appear to have increased substantially (Stark, 2007).

Several possible explanations exist for the decrease in domestic violence incidents.The most empirically supported explanation emphasizes changes in the availability ofresources to battered women, including domestic violence hotlines, shelters, and legaladvocacy (Dugan, Nagin, & Rosenfeld, 1999, 2003). Modifications in public percep-tions of domestic violence are another possibility (Buzawa & Buzawa, 2008). Changesoccurring in the criminal justice response to the problem have also been examined asfactors contributing to the decline. These changes have been most pronounced in thearea of police use of mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence. During the 1980s,mandatory and pro-arrest policies in these types of cases became common in policedepartments (Jones & Belknap, 1999). While research has provided mixed reviewsregarding whether these mandatory arrest policies lessen recidivism (Davis, O’Sullivan,Farole Jr., & Remple, 2008; Iyengar, 2009; Orchowsky, 1999; Xie, Lauritsen, &Heimer, 2012), police departments across the United States have widely implementedmandatory or pro-arrest policies in domestic violence cases (Buzawa, Buzawa, & Stark,2012; Xie et al., 2012).

One result of these mandatory arrest policies is an increase in these types of casesseen by courts (Dawson & Dinovitzer, 2001; Friday, Lord, Exum, & Hartman, 2006).These cases present a number of unique problems for the criminal justice system andare often a source of frustration for police and prosecutors. For example, one of themost significant impediments to prosecuting defendants in domestic violence cases isvictims are often unwilling to cooperate (Belknap, Hartman, & Lippen, 2010) and/orchange their minds about prosecution due to factors such as fear of their abuser,economic dependency on the offender, or having children in common (Davis, Smith,& Nickles, 1997; Sigler, Crowley, & Johnson, 1990). As a result, prosecutors often findit necessary to drop the case as a result of the victim’s unwillingness to testify. Thus, inaddition to using mandatory arrest policies some jurisdictions have also implementedspecialized prosecution strategies aimed at prosecuting cases without the victims’consent (Dawson & Dinovitzer, 2001).

Domestic violence cases also present unique complexities with respect tooverall judicial handling given the nature of the victim/offender relationship andthe relatively high likelihood the relationship between the victim and defendantwill continue and/or resume after initial contact with the criminal justicesystem. Victims are often fearful of retaliation from the defendant forcooperating with criminal justice agencies and may be subject to threats andintimidation throughout the process (Bennett, Goodman, & Dutton, 1999; Erez& Belknap, 1998; Singer, 1988). Thus, specialized police and prosecution unitsas well as specialized courts have been developed to combat the various

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 571

Page 3: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

obstacles associated with these types of cases. The purpose of this paper is topresent the findings of an evaluation of specialized units within ClevelandOhio’s police department, prosecutor’s office, and municipal court for process-ing domestic violence cases. After describing the creation of these units, wediscuss the quasi-experimental design of the study, followed by our findingsand their policy implications.

Specialized Domestic Violence Police Units

Although mandatory arrest policies are the most widely discussed law enforcementstrategy for addressing domestic violence offenses, specialized police domestic vio-lence units have emerged as another approach (Friday et al., 2006). According to anational survey of 14,000 law enforcement agencies, 11% reported having a specializeddomestic violence unit (Townsend, Hunt, Kuck, & Baxter, 2005). The percent (56) wasmuch higher in larger departments (those having 100 or more officers). Diversity existsin the function of these units, which can include the appointment of specially traineddetectives to investigate the cases, victim assistance with securing protective orders,victim safety planning, and referrals to counseling.

Specialized Domestic Violence Prosecution Units

The development of specialized units within prosecutors’ offices across the country hasbeen another tactic used to reduce dismissal rates and increase victim cooperation indomestic violence cases. Specialized prosecution programs encompass a variety ofstrategies to accomplish these goals, including the adoption of no-drop policies,specialized domestic violence training for prosecutors, and vertical prosecution strate-gies. Another goal of specialized prosecution programs has been the promotion ofevidence based (sometimes called Bvictimless^) prosecution in domestic violence cases(Davis et al., 2008). This type of prosecution relies heavily on physical evidence andthird party testimony instead of victim testimony (Dawson & Dinovitzer, 2001).

Specialized Domestic Violence Courts

Beginning in the 1980s, a number of different types of problem-solving courts emergedacross the country, including those focused on offenders with drug and mental healthproblems. In contrast to these other forms of specialized courts, the development in theearly 1990s of domestic violence courts sought to ensure the safety of the victim whilealso addressing the actions of the offender (Buzawa et al., 2012; Labriola, Bradley,O’Sullivan, Rempel, & Moore, 2009). The growth of domestic violence courts wasfurther aided by the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, whichprovided funding to increase the adjudication of individuals committing violent of-fenses against women (Shelton, 2007). While some specialized courts handlefamily violence cases, many focus exclusively on intimate partner violence, asdoes the court examined in the current study. The main focus of these domestic

572 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 4: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

violence courts currently is on making offenders accountable for their behavior(Peterson, 2008; Shelton, 2007).

Innovative criminal justice approaches such as these aiming to improve thehandling of domestic violence cases have been around sufficiently long that agrowing body of literature exists seeking to evaluate them. The methodologicalapproaches used in these evaluations vary considerably, as does the extent towhich the studies meet rigorous, scientific standards for program evaluation. Amajor obstacle in these evaluations has been the lack of appropriate comparisondata, making it difficult to fully assess the impacts of these approaches. Short-comings aside, the outcomes of these evaluations on the whole are not over-whelmingly positive (Garcia & McManimon, 2011; Robinson & Maxwell, 2008;Spohn, 2008). In part, this may reflect the difficulty of developing strategies tosimultaneously achieve two competing goals: increased offender accountabilityand increased protection of victims (Johnson & Dawson, 2011).

Cleveland’s Domestic Violence Project

Beginning in the late 1990s, three major players in Cleveland’s criminal justicesystem (the police, prosecutors, and victim advocates) sought ways to improvethe handling of domestic violence cases in the city. Along with a more recentinitiative by Cleveland’s Municipal Court, these efforts have collectively cometo be known as the BDomestic Violence Project^ (see Fig. 1). The initiativesbegan in 1997 with funding provided by a Violence Against Women Act STOPBlock Grant under the federal Violence Against Women Act, which pays for aportion of the DV Project detectives’, prosecutors’, and victim advocates’salaries. The stated objectives of this approach to handling domestic violencecases in the City of Cleveland as identified in their initial requests for fundingwere an increased number of investigations, charges, and successful prosecu-tions in domestic violence cases. The final aspect of the project, Cleveland’sDedicated Domestic Violence Docket, was created by Municipal Court JudgeRonald Adrine. The Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket began taking domes-tic violence cases in January 2007.

Components of Cleveland’s DV Project

Cleveland’s Police Department contains a specialized domestic violence unit. Atthe time we conducted this study, there were eight detectives assigned to thisunit. In accordance with the Violence Against Women Act grant, the unithandles cases of domestic violence in which the victim is an adult femaleand the victim and defendant are either married, cohabitating, or have a childtogether. Detectives are provided reports of domestic violence offenses from thesecond, third, and, fourth districts of the city and further investigate the casesby gathering additional evidence and attempting to contact the victim. Second,the Cuyahoga County Witness/Victim Center has approximately eight victimadvocates assigned to the Domestic Violence Project. Advocates also seek tomake contact with the victim and work with them to apply for civil protection

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 573

Page 5: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

orders, create a safety plan, and accompany them to court. Third, the City ofCleveland’s Prosecutor’s Office has three prosecutors and a law clerk assignedto handle domestic violence cases. The Prosecutors review cases presented bythe detectives, issue charges (both misdemeanor and felony), and prosecutemisdemeanor DV cases. Finally, cases investigated by the police department’sDV unit and charged by one of the DV prosecutors as misdemeanors are thenassigned to the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket by the Clerk’s Office.Initially two of the thirteen Municipal Court judges heard all of the casesassigned to the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket. That number has sincebeen increased to three judges.

The Cleveland DV Project adheres to many of the objectives identified in theliterature on specialized units within the criminal justice system. Evidence-basedprosecution is emphasized. However, if both evidence and victim cooperationare lacking, the prosecutor may decline to issue charges. Cases in whichcharges are issued continue to be handled by the DV prosecutor and areassigned to one of the judges on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket,who have attended specialized training in domestic violence issues. These samejudges also hold compliance hearings for any domestic violence offenders theyconvict and sentence to probation.

The Domestic Violence Project currently handles cases where the incident occurredin Cleveland’s second, third, and fourth police districts. No DV Project exists in theremaining two police districts in the city (districts one and five). The goal has alwaysbeen to further expand the Project to encompass all five districts. This goal has not beenmet for several reasons, including financial barriers and limits to the number of cityprosecutors that can be hired.

Fig. 1 Cleveland’s multi-agency domestic violence project

574 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 6: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

In terms of demographics, the non-DV Project districts are somewhat higher interms of socioeconomic status than the DV Project districts. For example, the averageunemployment rate across the DV Project districts is 19.8% while in the non-DVProject districts it is 16.9%.1 The poverty rate is approximately 36% in the DV Projectdistricts and 28% in the non-DV Project districts. The non-DV project districts alsohave proportionately fewer African American residents (49.3% compared to 58.4% forthe DV Project districts). The age distribution of the population in the DV Projectand non-DV Projects is similar. Approximately 24% of the population in each isunder 18 years of age and 12% is 65 years and older. The distribution of 18 to29 year olds is 20.7% and 17.6%, 30 to 49 year olds is 25.1% and 27.1%, and 50to 64 year olds is 18.1% and 19.4% in the DV Project and non-DV Projectdistricts respectively. The rates of domestic violence in the DV Project and non-DV Project districts for the period under investigation (July to December 2008)are also similar: 6.72 and 6.32 per 1000 respectively.

Methodology

Research Design

The delay in expanding the DV Project citywide to encompass all five districtsprovided a unique opportunity to evaluate this new strategy for handlingdomestic violence cases by allowing for a natural control group. In particular,it allowed for the possibility of comparing cases handled by the police depart-ment’s DV detectives, the Cleveland DV Prosecutors, and the Municipal Court’sDedicated Domestic Violence Docket to those cases that continued to behandled by regular district detectives and any of the remaining judges that hearcriminal cases on the Municipal Court. Thus, this study employed a quasi-experimental design using an experimental and control group. We compared theoutcomes of cases handled by the Domestic Violence Project (the experimentalgroup) with those handled in the districts currently not part of the project(control group). For cases in the control group, if the DV incident was amisdemeanor, the victim was given a referral to meet with a City Prosecutor(requiring the victim to go the Prosecutor’s office downtown). If the DVincident was a felony, the case would be assigned to the district detectivebureau to be handled by one of their investigators. Control group cases werenot reviewed or handled by a specialized DV prosecutor or assigned to theDedicated Domestic Violence Docket.

By linking data collected from the Cleveland Police Department’s files ondomestic violence cases, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the Cleveland MunicipalCourt, we tracked each domestic violence case that fit the Violence AgainstWomen Act grant criteria (see above) for the entire city for a 6-month period.Only cases originating through the police department were included. For the

1 Estimates at the police district level were derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Census and theAmerican Community Survey, 2007–2011, and were produced by the Northern Ohio Data & InformationService (NODIS), Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University.

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 575

Page 7: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

DV Project districts, we used the logbook in the Cleveland Police Department’sDomestic Violence Unit to identify all of the domestic violence reports fromthose districts meeting the Violence Against Women Act criteria. All reportssent down to the Domestic Violence Unit are reviewed against the ViolenceAgainst Women Act criteria; those that do not meet it are returned to thedistricts. For the non-DV Project districts we had to go out to each districtand read through all of the domestic violence reports for the period underinvestigation to determine which met the Violence Against Women Act criteria.The overall percent of domestic violence cases that met the Violence AgainstWomen Act criteria across all districts was 52.5%; however, this percent rangesfrom 29.5% to 62.6% across the districts.

Measures

With the exception of the court information, data were collected from paper files.Following other research examining the impacts of specialized domestic violencecourts (Dawson & Dinovitzer, 2001; Newmark, Rempel, Diffily, & Kane, 2001), wecollected basic demographic information on the victim and defendant, the victim/offender relationship, time and location of the offense, prior criminal history of thedefendant, the nature of the charges laid, whether or not the case went to trial, existenceand type of conviction, and sentencing information.2 On the basis of these data, wewere able to compare case aspects such as the rate of completed prosecution, the rate ofcase dismissals and guilty findings, type and length of sentence, and recidivism ratesfor cases handled through the Domestic Violence Project versus those handled by thenon-participating police districts.

Analysis

Significance tests were conducted using Chi-Square (for categorical variables) and t-tests (for continuous variables). Because we identified significant differences in theracial and ethnic make-up of the suspects and victims across the five districts, weincluded controls for suspect and victim race in our multivariate models predictingcharges and dismissals in the form of a dummy variable for black or non-black (wherethe largest differences across districts were evident).

We conducted a more qualitative assessment of the impact of the Dedicated Do-mestic Violence Docket in the form of a process evaluation by organizing focus groupsand interviews with detectives in the DV Unit of the Cleveland Police Department, theDV Prosecutors in the Cleveland Prosecutor’s Office, DVadvocates from the Witness/Victim Service Center, two attorneys from the Office of the Public Defender, and the 3current judges on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket (see BLINDED REFER-ENCE for details). Although space restrictions prevent us from detailing all of theresults of the qualitative assessment, some of the findings are referenced in ourdiscussion of the quantitative findings presented here.

2 Although we would have liked to collect information to measure economic status, such as income, this wasnot available in the files.

576 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 8: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

Results

Victim, Offender, and Case Characteristics

We identified and collected data on what we believe were all domestic violence caseswithin the City of Cleveland that met the DV Project definition of domestic violence(the victim was an adult female and the victim and defendant were either married,cohabitating, or had a child together) and occurred between July and December 2008.Although the number of cases on which we originally collected data was 1423, the finalnumber of cases included in the analysis was 1388 after removing cases that wereduplicates, handled by other agencies, or contained insufficient information. The largestpercentage of cases came from the fourth (28.2%), fifth (25.4%) and second (23.2%)districts (that is, two out of three of the DV Project districts). Table 1 provides abreakdown of suspect and victim characteristics both in the sample as a whole as wellas separately for cases handled by the DV Project and the first and fifth districts.

The majority of suspects for the entire sample of DV cases were Black males(77.9%) between the ages of 20 and 39 years (71.3%). The average age for all suspectswas 32.7 years and was not significantly different for DV Project cases (M = 32.58,SD = 9.9) compared to non-DV Project cases (M = 32.92, SD = 10.7), t(873) = 0.575,p = .56. There was a higher percent of White suspects in cases handled by the DVProject (18.1%) than in the first and fifth districts (11.9%) and also a higher percent ofHispanic suspects (7.6% vs. 3.7%). Differences in suspect race across the two groupswere statistically significant, χ2 (2, N = 1377) = 18.96, p < .01. Approximately 37% ofall suspects had prior charges for domestic violence. The percent of suspects with priordomestic violence charges was significantly higher among DV project cases (46.6%)than non-DV Project cases (19.7%), χ2 (1, N = 1385) = 95.68, p < .01. Cases handledby the DV Project also had significantly higher percentages of suspects with priordomestic violence convictions (26% vs. 11.8%), χ2 (1, N = 1385) = 37.63, p < .01; andprior convictions for other violent offenses (35.5% vs. 19.1%) χ2 (1, N = 1385) =39.93, p < .01. These patterns may be suggestive of greater charging and convictions inprior DV cases due to the existence of specialized units in those districts. About 45% ofall suspects had prior drug convictions and this was not significantly different for DVProject and non-DV Project cases, χ2 (1, N = 1384) = 0.72, p = .40.

The majority of victims for the entire sample of DV cases were also Black (71.5%)and between the ages of 20 and 39 years (73.2%). For all victims, the average age was30.74 years and was not significantly different for DV Project cases (M= 30.45, SD =9.8) compared to non-DV Project cases (M = 31.31, SD = 10.6), t (885) = 1.46, p = .14.There was a higher percent of White victims in cases handled by the DV Project(24.4%) than in the first and fifth districts (18.0%) and also a higher percent of Hispanicvictims (7.8% vs. 3.2%). Differences in victim race across the two groups werestatistically significant, χ2 (2, N = 1380) = 21.03, p < .01. A breakdown of thesuspect’s relationship to the victim reveals suspects were most often either a co-resident (33.5%) or boyfriend (27.6%) of the victim. It is important to note thatdeterminations of the relationship status relied on whatever information was providedin the narrative of the police report and/or victim and witness statements. Moresystematic data collection on relationship type is among the recommendations resultingfrom this study. Very few victims had a current temporary protection order against the

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 577

Page 9: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

suspect (3.4%), although a significantly higher percent of cases handled by the DVProject (4.9%) involved existing temporary protection orders than cases handled by thefirst and fifth districts (0.6%), χ2 (1, N = 1364) = 16.49, p < .01.

Table 2 provides a breakdown of the case characteristics for the sample as a wholeand also separately for DV Project and non-DV Project cases. The majority of incidentsoccurred in a joint residence of the suspect and victim. Incidents most commonlyinvolved the suspect physically assaulting the victim (81%). Strangulation was also not

Table 1 Suspect and victim characteristics of domestic violence cases, Cleveland, July–December 2008

Characteristic DV Projectdistricts

Non-DV Projectdistricts

Chi-Square Total

Suspect race/ethnicity

Non-hispanic white 165 (18.1%) 55 (11.9%) 18.96* 220 (16.0%)

Non-hispanic black 679 (74.4%) 392 (84.5%) 1071 (77.8%)

Hispanic 69 (7.6%) 17 (3.7%) 86 (6.2%)

Unknown 2 (0.1%)

Suspect prior record

Prior DV charges 428 (46.6%) 92 (19.7%) 95.68* 520 (37.5%)

Prior DV convictions 239 (26.0%) 55 (11.8%) 37.63* 294 (21.2%)

Prior convictions other viol offenses 326 (35.5%) 89 (19.1%) 39.93* 415 (29.9%)

Prior convictions for drug offenses 418 (45.5%) 201 (43.1%) 0.721 619 (44.6%)

Victim race/ethnicity

Non-hispanic white 223 (24.4%) 84 (18.0%) 21.03* 307 (22.2%)

Non-hispanic black 620 (67.8%) 367 (78.8%) 987 (71.5%)

Hispanic 71 (7.8%) 15 (3.2%) 86 (6.2%)

Unknown 5 (0.4%)

Defendant’s relationship to victim

Married 179 (19.5%) 72 (15.4%) 50.18* 251 (18.1%)

Co-residing 292 (31.9%) 171 (36.5%) 463 (33.5%)

Boyfriend 213 (23.3%) 169 (36.1%) 382 (27.6%)

Ex-Spouse 33 (3.6%) 9 (1.9%) 42 (3.0%)

Ex-common-law 199 (21.7%) 47 (10.0%) 246 (17.8%)

Unknown 4 (0.3%)

Living together at time of offense

Yes 511 (55.9%) 298 (64.1%) 8.50* 809 (58.3%)

No 403 (44.1%) 167 (35.9%) 570 (41.1%)

Unknown 9 (0.6%)

Existing temporary protection order against suspect

Yes 44 (4.9%) 3 (0.6%) 16.49* 47 (3.4%)

No 857 (95.1%) 460 (99.4%) 1317 (94.9%)

Unknown 24 (1.7%)

*p < .05a Small cell sizes prevent the use of Chi-Square in this comparison

578 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 10: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

uncommon (216 cases, or 15.6%). DV Project cases were significantly more likely toinvolve a knife (2.8% vs. 0.9%), χ2 (1, N = 1388) = 5.77, p = .016, assault (82.6% vs.78.1%), χ2 (1, N = 1388) = 4.07, p = .044), or other type of weapon (7.7% vs. 4.0%), χ2

(1, N= 1388) = 6.99, p < .01, while non-DV Project cases were significantly morelikely to involve strangulation (19.8% vs. 13.4%), χ2 (1, N= 1388) = 9.66, p < .01,blunt instrument (4.7% vs. 2.5%), χ2 (1, N = 1388) = 4.69, p = .03, or threats (16.4%vs. 9.5%), χ2 (1, N = 1388) = 14.23, p < .01. Almost half of victims received visibleinjuries (45%), although the percent was significantly higher for cases handled by theDV Project (50.7%) than non-DV Project cases (36%), χ2 (1, N= 1367) = 26.44,p < .01. It is possible this difference reflects a variation in reporting between the twogroups. In particular, first responders in DV project districts may have a greater

Table 2 Case characteristics and prosecution outcomes of domestic violence cases, Cleveland, July–Decem-ber 2008

Characteristic DV projectdistricts

Non-DVproject districts

Chi-Square Total

Location of offense

Victim residence 257 (28.0%) 103 (22.1%) 8.03 360 (26.0%)

Suspect residence 51 (5.6%) 21 (4.5%) 72 (5.2%)

Joint residence 453 (49.4%) 263 (56.3%) 716 (51.7%)

Other indoor location 52 (5.7%) 29 (6.2%) 81 (5.9%)

Public outdoor location 55 (6.0%) 28 (6.0%) 83 (6.0%)

Other 49 (5.3%) 23 (4.9%) 72 (5.2%)

Weapons useda

Firearm 13 (1.4%) 2 (0.4%) 2.85 15 (1.1%)

Knife 26 (2.8%) 4 (0.9%) 5.77* 30 (2.2%)

Assault 758 (82.6%) 367 (78.1%) 4.07* 1125 (81.1%)

Strangulation 123 (13.4%) 93 (19.8%) 9.66* 216 (15.6%)

Blunt instrument 23 (2.5%) 22 (4.7%) 4.69* 45 (3.2%)

Threats 87 (9.5%) 77 (16.4%) 14.23* 164 (11.8%)

Other 71 (7.7%) 19 (4.0%) 6.99* 90 (6.5%)

Victim received visible injuries

Yes 459 (50.6%) 166 (36.0%) 26.44* 625 (45.0%)

No 447 (49.2%) 295 (64.0%) 742 (53.5%)

Unknown 21 (1.5%)

Charges issued by prosecutor

Yes 445 (48.5%) 63 (58.3%) 3.76 508 (49.5%)

No 473 (51.5%) 45 (41.7%) 518 (50.5%)

Court hearing the case

Cleveland municipal court 335 (76.3%) 40 (63.5%) 4.79* 375 (74.7%)

Cuyahoga county court of common pleas 104 (23.7%) 23 (36.5%) 127 (25.3%)

*p < .05a The percentages for the weapon categories add up to more than 100 because multiple types of weapons couldbe used in a single incident

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 579

Page 11: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

awareness of the importance of systematically and thoroughly documenting injuries inpolice reports given their relationship with DV unit detectives.

Case Follow-up for Domestic Violence Cases in the First and Fifth Districts

Of the 481 non-DV Project cases where the original incident occurred in the first andfifth districts, the overwhelming majority (75.3%) resulted in nothing beyond the initialincident report filed. In other words, the victim filed an initial report but did not followup on the referral they were given to discuss the case with a City Prosecutor. No furtheraction was taken on these 362 cases. In only 80 of the 481 cases (16.6%) did the victimpursue the case by following up on it at the Cleveland Prosecutor’s Office. Thedetective bureaus in the first and fifth districts (who handle felony domestic violencecases) handled 28 cases. Finally, the DV Project unit handled 11 of the cases, eventhough they did not occur in one of the DV Project’s district. Most often this occurredwhen the DV unit had previously handled a case involving the same suspect. Thesecases were subsequently included in the DV Project group as they were handled by DVdetectives, prosecutors and judges.

Impact of DV Project on Prosecution Outcomes

There were 918 DV Project cases and 108 non-DV project cases reviewed by aprosecutor. Approximately half of these cases resulted in charges issued by theprosecutor, thus the initial attrition rate for DV Project cases was about 51%(Table 2). There were no significant differences in the percent of cases resulting incharges between the two groups (48.5% vs. 58.3%), χ2 (1, N= 1026) = 3.78, p =. 053.Slightly over three-quarters (76.3%) of the cases handled by the DV Project were heardby a Cleveland Municipal Court judge. A higher percent of cases from the first and fifthdistricts went through the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas compared tocases handled by the DV Unit (36.5% vs. 23.7%), χ2 (1, N= 502) = 4.79, p = .03.

Table 3 displays the results of a logistic regression model analyzing factorspredicting whether charges were issued by the Cleveland Prosecutor’s Office indomestic violence cases. With the exception of prior convictions for non-DV violent

Table 3 Factors predicting charges issued by cleveland prosecutor’s office

Predictor Odds Ratio (95% CI) Std. Error

Victim and defendant live together 1.451** (1.100–1.915) 0.141

Victim had existing temporary protection order against suspect 2.649** (1.367–5.132) 0.337

Victim received visible injury 2.596** (1.982–3.401) 0.138

Defendant has prior domestic violence charges 1.868** (1.414–2.467) 0.142

Defendant has prior convictions for violent offenses (other than DV) 1.139 (0.855–1.516) 0.146

Case was handled by DV unit 0.499** (0.321–0.775) 0.225

Black suspect 0.716 (0.443–1.159) 0.245

Black victim 0.776 (0.495–1.215) 0.229

**p < .05

580 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 12: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

offenses and suspect and victim race, all of the predictors included in the model had asignificant impact on the likelihood charges were issued in a domestic violence case.The strongest predictors were the victim having visible injuries, OR = 2.596, 95% CI[1.982, 3.401], and the existence of a temporary protection order, OR = 2.649, 95% CI[1.367, 5.132]. The lower likelihood of charges in cases handled by the DV Projectremained significant with the addition of these predictors, OR = 0.499, 95% CI [0.321,0.775]. Importantly, the odds of charges being issued were nearly twice as high in casesinvolving prior domestic violence charges against the defendant, OR = 1.868, 95% CI[1.414, 2.467]. Thus, even if only half of the cases result in charges, the high volume ofcases being handled by the Cleveland Police Department’s DV Unit does and willcontinue to be a major factor in getting domestic violence cases into the court system.

Impact of the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket on Court Outcomes

Table 4 displays the court outcomes for all of the domestic violence cases (definedaccording to the Violence Against Women Act criteria) handled by the ClevelandMunicipal Court, including a comparison of cases handled by the DV Project (thatwere assigned to the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket) and those handled by thefirst and fifth districts (that were assigned to one of the remaining judges on the court).For both groups of cases, the majority resulted in a plea of guilty or no contest by thedefendant (64.6%). There was no significant difference between the two groups in thepercent of cases where the defendant was found or plead guilty or no contest, χ2 (1,N = 350) = 1.57, p = .21.

The next most common outcome was case dismissal (22%). A significantly greaterpercent of cases handled by the DV Project were dismissed than those handled by thefirst and fifth districts (23.6% vs. 8.8%) χ2 (1, N= 348) = 3.87, p < .05. To assesswhether the difference in case dismissals was a function of the DV Project or areflection of the differences in the make-up of the samples, we ran a binary logisticregression model predicting the likelihood of case dismissal that included a measure ofwhether the case was from the DV Project or control group, along with whether thevictim and defendant were living together, whether the victim had an existing tempo-rary protection order against the suspect, whether the victim received a visible injury,whether the defendant had prior domestic violence changes, whether the defendant hada prior conviction for other violent offenses, whether the suspect was black, andwhether the victim was black. The difference in case dismissals between DV Projectand non-DV Project cases was no longer significant after controlling for these othervariables (Table 5).

Only 12 cases resulted in a trial heard on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket,eight of which produced a guilty finding. None of the cases originating in the first andfifth districts resulted in the defendant being referred to a diversion program, while 11defendants whose cases were handled by the DV Project received a referral. This mayreflect a lack of familiarity with the Deferred Judgment Program among judges who arenot on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket.

Approximately half of all of the cases resulted in a domestic violence conviction(48.5%). More than one in five cases resulted in an assault conviction (21.7%) andmore than one in three cases produced a conviction for another type of offense (e.g.menacing). For defendants who were sentenced to serve time, the average sentence was

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 581

Page 13: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

Table 5 Factors predicting domestic violence case dismissals in Cleveland municipal court

Predictor Odds Ratio (95% CI) Std. Error

Victim and defendant live together 0.842 (0.472–1.501) 0.295

Victim had existing temporary protection order against suspect 1.734 (0.479–6.269) 0.656

Victim received visible injury 2.047* (1.121–3.737) 0.307

Defendant has prior domestic violence charges 0.987 (0.560–1.738) 0.289

Defendant has prior convictions for violent offenses (other than DV) 1.179 (0.667–2.084) 0.291

Case was handled by DV unit 2.545 (0.723–8.953) 0.642

Black suspect 2.524 (0.929–6.854) 0.510

Black victim 1.122 (0.467–2.701) 0.448

*p < .05

Table 4 Court outcomes for domestic violence cases in Cleveland municipal court (N = 350)

DV projectdistricts

Non-DVprojectdistricts

Chi-Square

Total

Defendant conviction status

Found or plead guilty or no contest 208 (65.8%) 26 (76.5%) 1.57 234 (66.9%)

Found not guilty by judge or jury 4 (1.0%)a 0 (0.0%) 4 (1.1%)

Case dismissed by judge 74 (23.6%) 3 (8.8%) 3.87* 77 (22.1%)

Case nolled at request of prosecutor 16 (5.1%)a 2 (5.9%) 18 (5.1%)

Defendant referred to diversion program 11 (3.2%)a 0 (0.0%) 11 (3.1%)

Convicted offenses

Conviction for domestic violence 101 (48.3%) 13 (50.0%) 0.026 114 (48.5%)

Conviction for assault 49 (23.4%) 2 (7.7%) 3.37 51 (21.7%)

Conviction for other offenses 75 (35.9%) 14 (53.8%) 3.17 89 (37.9%)

Sentence

Average prison sentence(in months)

5.2 months(n = 63)

2.5 months(n = 11)

t = 0.507 4.8 months(n = 74)

Average probation sentence(in months)

15.5 months(n = 187)

16.6 months(n = 25)

t = −0.742 15.7 months(n = 212)

Average fine $347.33 (n =15)

$256.25 (n =16)

t = 1.379 $300.32 (n =31)

Treatment programs

Defendant sentenced to DIET 135 (67.8%) 12 (48.0%) 3.88* 147 (65.6%)

Defendant sentenced to anger management 13 (7.0%) 6 (24.0%) 7.86* 19 (9.0%)

Defendant sentenced to substance abuseassessment/counseling

54 (28.9%) 14 (56.0%) 7.45* 68 (32.1%)

Defendant sentenced to other treatmentprogram

58 (30.5%) 8 (8.0%) 5.57* 60 (27.9%)

*p < .05a Small cell sizes prevent the use of Chi-Square in this comparison

582 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 14: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

4.8 months. For the most common disposition, probation, the average sentence was15.7 months. Few defendants received a fine (31 in total), but of those that did, theaverage fine cost was $300.32. None of the differences for convicted offenses orsentence length was significant for cases handled by the DV Project/ DedicatedDomestic Violence Docket compared to those in the non-DV Project districts.3

With respect to defendants sentenced to treatment programs, a number of significantdifferences were found between DV Project and first/fifth district cases. Defendantswhose cases were heard on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket were significantlymore likely to be sentenced to the Domestic Intervention and Education Trainingprogram (DIET), χ2 (1, N= 244) = 3.88, p < .05, as well as other types of treatmentprograms (e.g. Get on Track, parenting classes etc.), χ2 (1, N = 215) = 5.57, p < .05,than those whose cases were not on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket.Furthermore, cases heard on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket weresignificantly less likely to result in a referral to anger management, χ2 (1,N= 212) = 7.86, p < .05, and substance abuse assessment and counseling, χ2 (1, N =212) = 7.45, p < .05. It appears non-Dedicated DV judges may be sentencing domesticviolence offenders to anger management programs instead of batterer intervention.These differences in dedicated and non-dedicated docket cases in the likelihood ofreferrals to DIET and anger management remained significant when we conductedbinary logistic regression models that controlled for other case characteristics.

We analyzed the court outcome data a second time with the goal of comparing all ofthe judges who had been assigned to the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket withthose who had never been assigned to it as of the time the data were collected. Weanticipated that the training and experience of handling domestic violence cases on thededicated docket would continue to have an impact even after judges had rotated off thedocket. The same significant differences emerged between the dedicated docket andnon-dedicated docket judges as we found previously when comparing the DV Projectcases with those cases from the first and fifth districts. The similarity in results likelystems from the fact that so few cases that originate in the first and fifth districts evermake it as far as the Cleveland Municipal Court and thus even judges who werepreviously assigned the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket but have since rotated offhear very few domestic violence cases.

When comparing the percent of defendants sentenced to prison among caseshandled by Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket judges versus other judges, we foundthat among the dedicated docket judges 22.2% of defendants were sentenced to prisoncompared to 44.4% of defendants whose cases were handled by other judges. Thisdifference, which is statistically significant, χ2 (1, N = 228) = 5.73, p < .05, mayindicate that Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket judges were attempting to useincarceration as a last resort in DV cases and instead were sentencingdefendants to probation where they can be referred to a range of services andprograms. In contrast to prison sentences, for cases sentenced to probation wefound no significant difference between the two groups in terms of the lengthof probation sentences given, t(210) = 0.742, p = .46.

3 Domestic violence conviction χ2 (1, N = 235) = 0.26, p = .87; assault conviction χ2 (1, N = 235) = 3.377,p = .07; conviction for other offenses χ2 (1, N = 235) = 3.170, p = .08; prison sentence length t(72) = −0.507,p = .61; probation sentence length t(210) = 0.742, p = .46.

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 583

Page 15: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

Impact of the DV Project and Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket on OffenderRecidivism

In order to examine the impact of the DV Project and Dedicated Domestic ViolenceDocket on the commission of additional domestic violence offenses by defendants, wecollected information on the number of domestic violence incidents reported to theCleveland Police Department for each defendant in our sample for a period of two totwo and a half years after the initial domestic violence incident (through December 31,2010). Of the 1279 defendants, 398 (31.1%) involved a defendant on whom subsequentdomestic violence incident reports were filed with the Cleveland Police Department.Because we were not able to obtain police reports for surrounding suburbs, and we onlyhad data on reports titled domestic violence (and not, for example, child endangermentor menacing), we view this as a conservative estimate of the degree of recidivismamong domestic violence perpetrators.

Of those defendants for whom additional domestic violence incident reports wereidentified, 63% had only one additional report. In 19% of cases there were twoadditional DV incidents reported. Although 90% of cases involved three or fewersubsequent DV incidents, we identified a handful of extreme cases. For example, therewere two defendants for whom eight additional domestic violence reports existed, andtwo for whom there were seven subsequent reports.

We compared DV project cases with non-DV project cases in terms of the percent ofcases involving the commission of additional domestic violence offenses by defen-dants. No significant differences were found, χ2 (1, N = 1279) = 0.43, p = 0.51. We alsocompared defendant recidivism for DV project/Dedicated DV Docket cases and non-DV project cases for just those cases that were heard by the Cleveland Municipal Court.Again, the differences were not significant, χ2 (1, N= 350) = 0.30, p = .58.

Discussion and Policy Implications

Our evaluation of the City of Cleveland’s Domestic Violence Project and the ClevelandMunicipal Court’s Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket has produced an array ofconclusions and policy implications. The most important of these is the overall positiveimpact of the police DV unit and the DV advocates from the Witness/Victim ServiceCenter on the handling of domestic violence cases in the City of Cleveland. Ourfindings demonstrate that the traditional way law enforcement handles misdemeanorDV cases, where the onus is on the victim to meet with a city Prosecutor, is ineffectiveto the extent that only a very small proportion of victims actually follow-up on theircases with a Prosecutor. Thus, in districts that lack the DV Project, the overwhelmingmajority of domestic violence cases result in nothing further than an initial policereport, emphasizing the significant impacts police DV units have on moving misde-meanor domestic violence cases forward in the city. A substantially greater number ofinvestigations of DV cases occur in the districts with the DV units, demonstrating thatthe DV Project has been successful in meeting that particular objective.

The low numbers of victims with temporary protection orders is cause for concern. Itis possible that we are underestimating this percent, as we had to rely on thisinformation being recorded in the police report. However, it is also possible that victims

584 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 16: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

in the first and fifth district are not meeting with a city prosecutor to pursue obtaining aprotection order because they do not wish to see the domestic violence case go forward.More generally it is possible that victims do not believe obtaining a temporaryprotection order will be effective or they anticipate resuming their relationship withthe suspect at some point.

Through the work of those in the DV Project, the DV prosecutors in the ClevelandProsecutor’s Office were able to issue charges in nearly half of all of the domesticviolence cases that come through the Project. Comparing the rate of charges issued inCleveland with elsewhere, recent studies show that prosecutors dismiss about half ofintimate partner violence cases with no charges issued (Belknap et al., 2010). Thus,charging patterns in Cleveland do not seem to differ from those found elsewhere.However, given that one of the goals of the DV Project is to increase offenderaccountability, the lower likelihood of cases resulting in charges for the DV Projectsuggests that this goal, and the more specific objective to increase the number ofcharges in DV cases, have not yet been met. Cases being handled by the DV Unit weremore likely to involve a suspect who had prior DV charges and convictions and priorconvictions for other violent offenses. This pattern can be viewed as evidence of thepositive impact the DV Project is having where DV cases within the Project are morelikely to result in domestic violence charges and convictions that in turn can result inescalating charges in future incidents.

Domestic violence cases originating in the non-DV Project districts that make it tocourt had a greater likelihood of charges that are felony-level. This may occur forseveral reasons. First, approximately one-quarter of the cases from these districts thatresulted in some kind of follow-up were handled by the districts’ detective bureaus,which only handle felony cases, which are naturally likely to produce felony charges.Second, victim cooperation may be greater in cases from the first and fifth districts thatmake it as far as the court system as two-thirds of the cases from the control group thatresulted in follow-up were pursued by the victims themselves, who took the time andeffort to go downtown and meet with a city prosecutor to discuss the case. This willincrease the likelihood of felony charges since cooperation should facilitate puttingtogether a stronger case including more serious charges, and make it more probable thata victim will pursue charges for repeated incidents, leading to escalated charges.

For cases handled by the Cleveland Municipal Court, the majority of cases handledby the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket resulted in findings or pleas of guilty or nocontest. Although the rate of case dismissals was higher for DV Project than non-DVProject cases, this difference did not remain significant once we controlled for differ-ences in the samples. Evaluations of other specialized court programs reveal relativelyhigh rates of domestic violence cases being dismissed or nollied due to a lack of victimcooperation (e.g., Buzawa, Hotaling, Klein, & Byrne, 1999). That said, research onother dedicated domestic violence dockets suggests that dedicated dockets can reducedismissal rates in domestic violence cases (Karan, Keilitz, & Denaro, 1999). Ourfinding that DV Project cases do not have lower dismissal rates than non-DV Projectcases suggests that the goals of increasing offender accountability through a greaterreliance on evidence-based prosecution and the objective to increase successful pros-ecutions are not currently being met. There are several plausible explanations for thisfinding. Focus groups conducted with DV Prosecutors and advocates about the DVProject and Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket revealed several obstacles to the

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 585

Page 17: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

successful prosecution of cases handled by the DV Project. For example, both the DVProsecutors and advocates reported feeling overwhelmed by their caseloads, whichboth groups viewed as extremely high.

There was also widespread consensus among the DV advocates that the currentstructure of the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket results in victims having to spenda lot of time sitting around in court waiting for their cases to be called. This poses ahardship on victims, who are told to come to court at 9:00 a.m. but their cases are oftennot heard until hours later. The advocates report that the inconvenience this causesvictims, who are frequently juggling childcare and work issues with attending court,leads them to become disheartened by the process, reduces victim cooperation andincreases the likelihood the victim will recant in order to hasten an end to the case. Thisproblem is compounded by the fact that many victims receive subpoenas the day beforethey are supposed to appear in court and upcoming court dates are not appearing in theCourt website in a timely fashion. Domestic violence victims face a number of hurdlesin showing up to court for their cases. Among the obstacles they face are securing timeaway from employment and finding alternatives for childcare. Their ability to over-come these issues and be present in court would be greatly facilitated by as muchadvanced notification as possible that their presence is going to be required in court.Given the reluctance of many victims to participate in the court process, making thisaspect less burdensome to them by providing subpoenas in a timely fashion is animportant priority.

The DVadvocates also identified a number of obstacles to following up with victimsbased on initial police reports, including incomplete reports, victims’ addresses sometimesmissing from the report or the lack of a phone number for the victim. They stressed theimportance of including a contact number in the report, even if the number is for aneighbor or relative rather than the victim. They also noted that first responders in thesecond, third, and fourth districts sometimes incorrectly refer victims to the City Prose-cutor’s Office when they should be referring them to the DV unit or the Witness/VictimService Center. As a result, victims are wasting time sitting around in the ClevelandProsecutor’s Office only to find out that they are in the wrong place. These concernshighlight the need for better training for first line officers in writing police reports.

Judges on the Dedicated Domestic Violence Docket appear to rely less on prison indealing with convicted defendants and more likely to require defendants to participatein programming such as batterer intervention as part of their probation sentence. Thesepractices may require re-examination in light of research demonstrating lower re-arrestrates among domestic violence defendants given more intrusive sentences (jail, workrelease etc.) and the weak and inconsistent findings with respect to the effectiveness ofbatterer intervention programs (Auchter & Backes, 2013; Babcok, Green, & Robie,2004; Daly & Pelowski, 2000; Feder & Forde, 2000; Feder &Wilson, 2005; Venture &Davis, 2005). Judges should be educated with respect to these research findings.Furthermore, comparing the recidivism rates of defendants in our sample sentencedto the local batterer intervention program (DIET) with those who were not, we found nostatistically significant difference in whether defendants committed subsequent domes-tic violence offenses.4

4 Unfortunately we did not have information on whether defendants sentenced to attend batterer’s interventionactually successfully completed the program.

586 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 18: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

The recidivism rate among domestic violence defendants is not significantly differ-ent for DV Project cases compared to those from the control group, which does raisequestions with respect to whether the DV Project is meeting its goal of enhancedoffender accountability. High rates of recidivism among domestic violenceoffenders have been reported in many evaluations of court-based strategies forimproving the handling of domestic violence cases (Ursel & Hagyard, 2008).Thus, recidivism among domestic violence offenders has long been a problemfor the courts. Cleveland seems to be no exception. Closer scrutiny andevaluation of the services provided to defendants convicted of domestic vio-lence may be needed to identify areas for improvement beyond what is occur-ring up to and including the court proceedings.

The results of this evaluation study point to a number of additional policy implica-tions. Perhaps most importantly, the value of implementing domestic violence units inpolice departments is strongly supported by the results. This is an effective model forgetting initial police reports on domestic violence offenses to move beyond this firststep. However, for the positive impact of specialized domestic violence units to occurthroughout all of the stages of the criminal justice process, each specialized unit mustbe appropriately staffed. A significant challenge for the current system in Cleveland isthe overwhelming caseloads shouldered by only a handful of DV prosecutors in theCleveland Prosecutor’s Office. For the 6-month period examined here, the ClevelandProsecutor’s Office reviewed around 1000 DV cases. About half of these cases resultedin charges and thus additional work for the DV prosecutors. Given that rates ofdomestic violence both in Cleveland and elsewhere have increased during the pastseveral years, the number of cases currently being handled by DV prosecutors hascontinued to grow. The difficulties this creates for building strong, evidence-basedcases that do not rely on victims showing up to court are further compounded by theunderstaffing of the DV detective unit and the need for more DV advocates. Thus, forjurisdictions considering adopting this type of model for handling domestic violenceoffenses, sufficient staffing will be critical.

Our findings emphasize the importance of providing adequate training to lawenforcement officers regarding the documentation of injuries in domestic violencecases. Even for victims who do not follow up with prosecutors, well-written policereports provide the bases for stronger cases should subsequent incidents occur. Fur-thermore, extensive documentation of injuries can increase the likelihood of evidence-based prosecution.

The study results highlight the need for victim education on the necessary steps forobtaining a protection order. Having a domestic violence unit to handle DV casesagency-wide may assist in addressing this gap. If all DV victims are assigned anadvocate from the time the police report is initially filed, the advocate could explainthe steps required to obtain a protection order as well as the value of doing so.

An important consideration in structuring a dedicated domestic violence docket is tohave DV cases scheduled to be heard at specific times of the day (e.g. 11 a.m. until1 p.m.) on specific days (2 or 3 days a week). This could eliminate the time wasted byvictims, prosecutors, detectives, and advocates wait hours for the case to be called.Ultimately this should also improve victim cooperation by creating some predictabilityfor the victims regarding when they will need to be in court. If possible, thescheduling of DV cases should be staggered across those judges with the

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 587

Page 19: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

DDVD so that DV detectives and advocates are not scheduled to be in multiplecourtrooms at the same time.

Finally, the creation of a specialized DV unit in the Office of the Public Defenderwill provide some needed balance to a system that has specialized DV prosecutors. Itshould also improve the ability of public defenders to adequately represent clientsinvolved in DV cases.

While the current study uses a stronger methodological design than many evalua-tions of specialized policing units and courts, it is not without its limitations. The mostsignificant of these was the reliance on the accuracy of the information in the policereports. In some cases, it was difficult to determine the exact nature of the relationshipbetween the victim and the offender. Information on protection orders may not havebeen consistently reported in the police reports. And we had to rely on aconservative measure of recidivism that excluded police reports for surroundingsuburbs and reports titled something other than domestic violence (e.g., childendangerment or menacing). Finally, our study was limited to a single jurisdic-tion. Further research is needed using similar quasi-experimental designs toassess the generalizability of the findings reported here.

References

Auchter, B., & Backes, B. L. (2013). NIJ’s program of domestic violence research: Collaborative effects tobuild knowledge guided by safety for victims and accountability for perpetrators. Violence AgainstWomen, 19, 713–736.

Babcok, J. C., Green, C. E., & Robie, C. (2004). Does batterers’ treatment work? A meta-analytic review ofdomestic violence treatment. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 1023–1053.

Belknap, J., Hartman, J. L., & Lippen, V. L. (2010). Misdemeanor domestic violence cases in the courts: Adetailed description of the cases. In V. Garcia & J. E. Clifford (Eds.), Female victims of crime: Realityreconsidered (pp. 259–278). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bennett, L., Goodman, L., & Dutton, M. A. (1999). Systemic obstacles to the criminal prosecution of abattering partner: A victim perspective. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 761–772.

Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., Chen, J., & Stevens,M. R. (2011). The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey (NISVS): 2010 summary report.Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control andPrevention.

Browne, A. (1997). Violence in marriage: Until death do us part? In A. P. Cardarelli (Ed.), Violence betweenintimate partners: Patterns, causes, and effects (pp. 48–69). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Buzawa, E. S., & Buzawa, A. D. (2008). Courting domestic violence victims: A tale of two cities.Criminology & Public Policy, 7, 671–685.

Buzawa, E. S., Buzawa, C. G., & Stark, E. (2012). Responding to domestic violence: The integration ofcriminal justice and human services. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Buzawa, E. S., Hotaling, G. T., Klein, A., & Byrne, J. (1999). Response to domestic violence in a pro-activecourt setting: Final report. Lowell: University of Massachusetts.

Catalano, S. (2007). Intimate partner violence in the United States. Washington, DC: Bureau of JusticeStatistics, U.S. Department of Justice.

Catalano, S. (2012). Intimate partner violence, 1993–2010. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S.Department of Justice.

Daly, J., & Pelowski, S. (2000). Predictors of dropout among men who batter: A review of studies withimplications of research and practice. Violence and Victims, 15, 137–160.

Davis, R. C., O’Sullivan, C. S., Farole Jr., D. J., & Remple, R. (2008). A comparison of two prosecutionpolicies in cases of intimate partner violence: Mandatory case filing versus following the victim’s lead.Criminology & Public Policy, 7, 633–662.

588 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590

Page 20: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

Davis, R. C., Smith, B. E., & Nickles, L. (1997). Prosecuting domestic violence cases with reluctant victims:Assessing two novel approaches in Milwaukee. Report to the National Institute of Justice.

Dawson, M., & Dinovitzer, R. (2001). Victim cooperation and the prosecution of domestic violence in aspecialized court. Justice Quarterly, 18, 593–622.

Dugan, L., Nagin, D. S., & Rosenfeld, R. (1999). Explaining the decline in intimate partner homicide: Theeffects of changing domesticity, women’s status, and domestic violence resources. Homicide Studies, 3,187–214.

Dugan, L., Nagin, D. S., & Rosenfeld, R. (2003). Exposure reduction or retaliation? The effects of domesticviolence resources on intimate-partner homicide. Law & Society Review, 37, 169–198.

Erez, E., & Belknap, J. (1998). In their own words: Battered women’s assessments of the criminal processingsystem’s responses. Violence and Victims, 13, 251–268.

Feder, L., & Forde, D. (2000). A test of the efficacy of court-mandated counseling for domestic violenceoffenders: The Broward experiment. Final report for the National Institute of Justice, grant number 96-WT-NX-0008. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. NCJ 184752.

Feder, L., & Wilson, D. B. (2005). A meta-analytic review of court-mandated batterer intervention programs:Can courts affect abusers’ behavior? Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1, 239–262.

Friday, P. C., Lord, V. B., Exum, M. L., & Hartman, J. (2006). Evaluating the impact of a specialized domesticviolence police unit, final report. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Garcia, V., & McManimon, P. (2011). Gendered justice: Intimate partner violence and the criminal justicesystem. Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Iyengar, R. (2009). Does the certainty of arrest reduce domestic violence? Evidence from mandatory andrecommended arrest laws. Journal of Public Economics, 93, 85–98.

Johnson, H., & Dawson, M. (2011). Violence against women in Canada: Research and policy perspectives.Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Jones, D. A., & Belknap, J. (1999). Police responses to battering in a progressive pro-arrest jurisdiction.Justice Quarterly, 16, 249–273.

Karan, A., Keilitz, S., & Denaro, S. (1999). Domestic violence courts: What are they and how should wemanage them? Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 50, 75–86.

Labriola, M., Bradley, S., O’Sullivan, C. S., Rempel, M., & Moore, S. (2009). A national portrait of domesticviolence courts. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

Lauritsen, J. L., Owens, J. G., Planty, M., Rand, M. R., & Truman, J. L. (2012). New methods for countingseries victimizations. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Newmark, L., Rempel, M., Diffily, K., & Kane, K. M. (2001). Specialized felony domestic violence courts:Lessons on implementation and impacts from the kings county experience. Washington DC: The UrbanInstitute.

Orchowsky, S. J. (1999). Evaluation of a coordinated community response to domestic violence intervention:The Alexandria domestic violence intervention project. Final report. Washington DC: National Instituteof Justice.

Peterson, R. R. (2008). Reducing intimate partner violence: Moving beyond criminal justice interventions.Criminology & Public Policy, 7, 537–545.

Robinson, A. L., & Maxwell, C. D. (2008). The challenge to respond effectively to violence against women ina global context. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 32, 133–147.

Shelton, D. E. (2007). The current state of domestic violence courts in the United States, 2007. NationalCenter for State Courts White Paper.

Sigler, R. T., Crowley, J. M., & Johnson, I. (1990). Judicial and prosecutorial endorsement of innovativetechniques in the trial of domestic abuse cases. Journal of Criminal Justice, 18, 443–453.

Singer, S. I. (1988). The fear of reprisal and the failure of victims to report a personal crime. Journal ofQuantitative Criminology, 4, 289–302.

Spohn, C. (2008). Editorial introduction to coordinated community response to intimate partner violence.Criminology and Public Policy, 7, 489–493.

Stark, E. (2007). Coercive control: How men entrap women in personal life. New York: Oxford UniversityPress.

Townsend, M., Hunt, D., Kuck, S., & Baxter, C. (2005). Law enforcement response to domestic violence callsfor service. Final report for National Institute of Justice, grant number 99-C-008. Washington, DC: U.S.Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice NCJ 215915.

Truman, J. L., & Morgan, R. E. (2016). Criminal Victimization, 2015. Washington, DC: Bureau of JusticeStatistics, U.S. Department of Justice.

Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590 589

Page 21: The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case ......The Impact of Specialized Domestic Violence Units on Case Processing Wendy C. Regoeczi 1 & Dana J. Hubbard1 Received:

Ursel, J., & Hagyard, C. (2008). The Winnipeg family violence court. In J. Ursel, L. M. Tutty, & J. Lemaistre(Eds.), What’s law got to do with it? The law, specialized courts, and domestic violence in Canada (pp.95–119). Toronto: Cormorant Books.

Venture, L., & Davis, G. (2005). Domestic violence: Court case conviction and recidivism. Violence AgainstWomen, 11, 255–277.

Xie, M., Lauritsen, J. L., & Heimer, K. (2012). Intimate partner violence in U.S. metropolitan areas: Thecontextual influences of police and social services. Criminology, 50, 961–992.

Dr. Wendy Regoeczi is Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociologyat Cleveland State University. She also serves as the Director of CSU’s Criminology Research Center. She isthe former editor of the journal Homicide Studies. Her research interests homicide, domestic violence, sexualassault and program evaluation. Her publications have appeared in such journals as the Journal of QuantitativeCriminology, Justice Quarterly, Social Forces, and the Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency. She isalso coauthor (with Terance Miethe) of Rethinking Homicide: Exploring the Structure and Process UnderlyingDeadly Situations, published by Cambridge University Press.

Dr. Dana Hubbard is an associate professor at Cleveland State University in the Criminology, Anthropology,and Sociology department. She is also a Research Associate in the Criminology Research Center at ClevelandState. Her research interests include women and crime, race and crime, and corrections and the intersection ofall of these areas. She has published in journals such as Justice Quarterly, Crime and Delinquency, and thePrison Journal. She has also been the recipient of numerous grants associated with evaluation research.

590 Am J Crim Just (2018) 43:570–590